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Disagreeing While Staying Human

HT-Radio, one of my favorite podcasts and one that I recommend to everyone who asks me what to listen to first, was kind enough to take a question from me regarding the Lord’s Supper. After graciously answering my question, Pr. Rick Stuckwisch, the guest, made an interesting point regarding individual cups for the wine and individual hosts. The Bible notes one bread and one cup for the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). In many of our churches we have individual cups for sanitary concerns or so that some can have their wine watered down. In the great majority of our churches we have individually baked hosts.

The practice of individual cups is not held in high esteem by many, for reasons that I respect. It’s easier to spill wine when pouring it into a hundred little cups versus one chalice. Individual glass and metal cups are more difficult to clean properly. Some churches use plastic cups and let the communicant throw Christ’s blood into the trash.

The practice of individual hosts is held in high esteem by many, also for reasons that I respect. Tearing bits off of a single loaf produces crumbs that can fly and are not eaten, which is not good, because Christ did say, “take, eat, this is my body.”

Yet these are both innovations. Christ broke the bread and gave it to His disciples. He took the cup after supper, gave it to his disciples, and they drank of it.

Having seen discussions about this sort of thing and other things online, I know someone out there is ready to call anyone who has a particular preference a legalist, no matter how good his reasons are.

There are going to be those who prefer a particular practice over another. Not only are there differing practices in the relative homogeneity of the LCMS, but there are real differences in theology and preaching. An appeal to authority, however despised in the normal course of rhetoric, is actually valid where God’s word is concerned. Christianity is not our religion to do with as we please.

Our treatment of that word, though, will always be suspect. God’s word is inerrant and infallible, but even the best of us are not. Confessions and creeds, while man-made, serve as valid markers of agreement among those who have studied God’s word.

Despite good creeds and confessions we sinners still find ways to disagree. Even when we’re right, we can be wrong. While keeping in mind C. P. Krauth’s warning about error demanding tolerance all the way up to the point where truth is no longer tolerated itself, we also have to keep in mind that those who hold to an error are in fact people, usually placed into their office by God. The joy in heaven from the repentance of one sinner is not derived from being able to correctly prove a point.

Stay humble, even if your office and your time in that office would indicate that you need not be. There is error out there, but try not to add to it. See if you can get agreement as to what you are actually disagreeing about. :)

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  1. boaz says:

    I prefer the practice that lets sinners eat and drink the body and blood with the least burden to their conscience or worry for the health of themselves or their neighbors.

    Disposing of cups in the trash without cleaning them the same way you clean the chalice is certainly bad practice, but lax practice often occurs with the chalice as well. I’ve seen and heard about extra wine being poured down the drain, or dunked in the dishsoap without rinsing. One drop is as precious as a gallon. But Christ didn’t give us his body and blood to keep us up at night worrying about crumbs and driplets.

    Why do normally conservative/libertarian leaning lutherans think more rules will stop bad practice? In the right hand kingdom, good practice is about reverence for God and love for neighbor, motivated by the Gospel, not making up rules to bind consciences, which only adds to sin.

  2. Tom Moeller says:

    Yes, respect not legalistic obsession will do least damage to the conscience.
    Consider not tossing the thimble (not a cup) but don’t fret over spilling a drop or letting fly a crumb. Too know of his body and blood, broken and shed is better than to know exactly how far to stick out the pinky to show just the right amount of reverence (what is that called again?).